Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli finance minister

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's finance minister, speaks during a rally with supporters in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on October 26, 2022.

(Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Minister Threatens to Turn Occupied West Bank Into Ruins 'Like in the Gaza Strip'

One advocate responded: "Take this seriously. If extremists like Smotrich get their way they will do to the West Bank exactly what they have done to Gaza."

Israel's forces have killed at least 36,224 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in less than eight months, and far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday threatened to similarly attack the illegally occupied West Bank.

Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, shared on social media a video he recorded in Bat Hefer, following similar posts a day earlier. The Times of Israelreported that the minister's comments came after Palestinians' gunfire from Tulkarem in the West Bank toward the Israeli settlement.

"Our message to the neighbors beyond the fence in Tulkarem, Nur Shams, Shuweika, and Qalqilya: We will turn you into ruined cities like in the Gaza Strip if the terror you are exerting on the settlements continues," Smotrich said in Hebrew, according to a translation from Al Jazeera.

NPR international correspondent Aya Batrawy pointed out that not only is Smotrich an advocate of illegal Israeli settlements—he has a home near Kedumim—but also "his role as finance minister means he oversees budgets, like police and army."

Rohan Talbot, director of advocacy and campaigns of the U.K.-based Medical Aid for Palestinians, said of Smotrich's remarks: "Take this seriously. If extremists like Smotrich get their way they will do to the West Bank exactly what they have done to Gaza. Starting with the refugee camps and Area C communities (to a certain extent it has already begun)."

Since the Hamas-led October 7 attack on Israel, Israeli forces and settlers have killed over 500 Palestinians in the West Bank.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights group in the United States, issued a statement about multiple recent events, including the minister's comments.

"Every day, we see Israel's far-right government targeting civilian infrastructure vital to the lives of ordinary Palestinians, whether in Gaza or the West Bank," Hooper said. "This ongoing destruction has one goal—to make life unbearable for the Palestinian people and to force their removal from the land of Palestine."

CAIR also "condemned the far-right Israeli government's destruction of a vegetable market in the West Bank city of Ramallah," explaining: "During a raid, Israeli stun grenades and tear gas canisters ignited the blaze that consumed a large portion of the market. Some 200 shops and stalls were impacted."

The group further pointed out that the devastation in Ramallah followed Israeli forces bombing a pair of encampments in and near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, attacks that killed dozens of Palestinians displaced by the war—which over 30 countries have argued to the International Court of Justice amounts to genocide.

Smotrich has come under fire for other statements since Israel launched its retaliation for the October 7 attack. Just last month, in what critics called blatantly genocidal language, he advocated for "total annihilation" of Gaza.

In January, Smotrich said that the mass expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza would be a "humanitarian solution" and "a small country like ours cannot afford a reality where, four minutes away from our settlements, there is a hotbed of hatred and terror, where there are 2 million people who wake up every morning with the desire to destroy the state of Israel."

Smotrich made similar remarks before the current escalation, declaring in March 2023 that an entire Palestinian town should be "wiped out" by Israel and that "there's no such thing as Palestinians because there's no such thing as a Palestinian people."

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